February 1 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Let your Faith be an example to others

Through prayer and living our Faith fervently, we can help bring lapsed Catholics back to the Church, Fr Michael Kane writes.

Recently I wrote on these pages about the urgency of promoting a sound Catholic ethos in our schools.

In truth, however, so much of our concerns focus on the Catholicity of our homes and families. This is the perennial question for most Catholics of a certain generation.

I frequently find myself in conversation with parishioners who have a heavy heart because their children or grandchildren have lapsed in their Faith.

Many faithful Catholics ask: what did I do wrong? Why will my grown-up children not attend Mass or Confession? Why have they turned their backs on the Church?

Worse still, why have they not presented their own children for Baptism?

These are questions which trouble many who take the responsibility of handing-on the Faith very seriously.

Parents who diligently laid the foundations during the formative years are left wondering why Faith didn’t take root in their children despite it being nurtured from an early age.

At times it is difficult for us to accept the radically personal dimension of Faith. Faith is not the Faith of my parents or grandparents. It is distinctly personal. It is mine. Such a realisation can be difficult for family members.

Naturally, we want our Faith to inspire and to be creative in others, but it cannot always be so. Faith emerges from within the culture of a family. It breaks ground and takes root in the formative years, but then it tracks its own course.

Some time ago I celebrated the funeral Mass of an elderly gentleman in our parish.

This man had no academic achievements. He left school at 14 to pursue a life of manual work.

There were no opportunities for him to go on to higher education. In truth, he preferred to work with his hands.

That man turned out to be a most inspiring teacher, sharing his Faith and wisdom with his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He perhaps lacked the eloquence to unfold the doctrines or the mysteries of our Faith.

He was unable to witness to his Faith in that way. He chose another path.

Like all great teachers he rarely taught through words. He preferred actions. His living example was his greatest asset.

He passed on important values and morals to his loved ones. And he tried his best to hand on the precious gift of Faith.

Some in his family lapsed; others were deepened in their Faith because of his example. But I’m certain that all were touched by the example of his Faith witness which didn’t seek to force or compel.

This is all part of the mystery of the transmission of Faith.

Some seed falls on fertile soil, some on arid ground. We cannot bear the full responsibility for the personal Faith of others. We cannot labour under the burden of disappointment.

It’s important to remember that even Jesus failed to convert the hearts of some people. Some had hearts that were coarsened, and too hardened to be moulded by his grace. Some were simply not open to the gift of Faith.

It didn’t deter the Lord from living His mission. It didn’t stop Him from preaching His Gospel, and teaching through example.

Many miracles, healings and conversions were born from His example.

And so it is with us. In our own lives of Faith, when we meet with disappointment, when we see some in our families closed to Mass and the Sacraments, when we see fewer young people practicing their Faith, what should we do?

A short seven years of priesthood has convinced me that arguing about these things does little good. Shouting at a young person doesn’t open wide the door of Faith. Very often it slams it shut—and very tightly.

Instead we need to understand and accept our limitations. This is principally God’s work.

So we need to put our trust in the power of prayer. To believe that prayer can move even the highest mountains and the most stubborn of hearts.

We need to pray for the people we love; that the gift of Faith will take root once again in the fertile ground of their hearts. This is our prayer mission.

Then there is a practical mission. We continue to do what we have always done, but perhaps more fervently, more conscientiously.

By the way we live our Catholic Faith we let others know that there is no-one more important to us than Jesus; that He is the foundation upon which we build our lives, that His Word is the ultimate wisdom in my life; that He is first in everything; He is the one who sustains me in every moment of my life.

So we show others what the Lord means to us.

We remind them of the strength He gives us in our struggles, the peace He gives us in turbulent times and the joy He brings to our life’s journey.

And so, like countless Christians who have gone before us, we lead by example, we lead from the front. We imitate Jesus the Teacher through the example of our lives. We remain faithful to the Church and her teachings, even the ones we find difficult.

We stand with the Church who is our mother, even in turbulent times. Even when the Church is wounded and battered by scandals we don’t abandon our Mother.

We commit ourselves to Mass, to confession, to the Sacraments, to Eucharistic adoration, to personal prayer and family prayer, to the Rosary and devotion to Our Lady, and to the continual work of charity.

This is the daily work of quiet evangelisation. If we do all these things with a cheerful heart then let God do the rest.

It was St Teresa of Calcutta who once reminded us all that God is calling us to be faithful, not necessarily successful.

And if we remain faithful to these principals then our lives will begin to influence people and the culture within our homes and families, and the work of evangelisation will surely bear fruit.


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